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AIF's $5 million initiative to fight AIDs in India

October 24, 2006 15:38 IST

The American India Foundation announced a new $5 million (about Rs 22.5 crore) initiative to combat HIV/AIDS in India during the non-profit organisation's third annual Fall Benefit Gala in San Francisco recently.

Victor Menezes, former senior vice chairman of Citigroup and AIF co-chair, made the announcement at the gala attended by over 700 people, including corporate executives, diplomats, artists, journalists and AIF's well-wishers.

AIF Trustees Asha and Raj Rajaratnam made the first commitment – of $1.5 million (about Rs 6.75 crore) – for the project.

Mythili Sankaran, AIF's West Coast Regional Director, told rediff India Abroad the gift of $1.5 million would go a long way in speeding up AIF's work on prevention education, equip community clinics with trained healthcare providers and provide care and support, particularly to vulnerable children and pregnant women.

The gala brought into focus the work AIF is doing in India, and the great deal more that can be done when pooling minds and resources, Sankaran said.

The September 23 gala, that included a cocktail reception, awards ceremony, dinner and a musical concert, finally raised a record $1.75 million for AIF's developmental work.

Sankaran said the proceeds from the gala would go to furthering AIF's three pillars of development work in India – education, livelihood and public health.

"The amount we raised at the gala will be allocated for all grassroots programs, including public health," she said, adding that in future the foundation wants to expand other public health concerns as well.

Recent figures of HIV/AIDS infections among adults and children in India, which has the second-largest HIV-positive population after South Africa, are estimated at over 5 million.

Without appropriate action and given the risk factors in India, some predict the infection levels will rise as high as 20 to 25 million by 2010, equal to the combined population of London, New York and Tokyo.

Although AIF was launched soon after the Gujarat earthquake primarily to provide relief and rehabilitation to the victims of the calamity, in his speech Menezes focused on how the AIF has grown in terms of developmental work in India in the past five years.

"He mentioned that today the AIF is considered a premier organisation when it comes to scaled and sustainable work in India for the marginalised people in the country and he did talk about the new areas of focus for AIF and where it wants to go in future from where the organisation is today," Sankaran said.

"We want to become the primary point for the Diaspora, the most trusted channel when it comes to giving to India for developmental work. That is why, going forward, a large part of our focus would be on scaling our efforts to continue to work more effectively," Sankaran said.

"We will scale our work with both the central government and various state governments in India and create innovative models to reach more number of marginalised people. That is where we see our value addition," she said.

At the gala, Hollywood producer Ashok Amritraj and Silicon Valley venture capitalists Vinod Khosla and Bill Draper served as gala chairs. AIF also recognised Paul Otellini, President and CEO of Intel Corporation, and Nandan Nilekani, CEO of Infosys Technologies Ltd for their leadership, entrepreneurial endeavors and commitment to corporate social responsibility in India.

In his address Otellini spoke about Intel's commitment to further proliferation of technology in India as well as its community outreach efforts.

Intel's focus areas of work in the community in India include education, where it is providing technology and training support to institutions such as the SOS Children's Villages of India, India Sponsor Foundation, among others.

It also launched volunteer matching grant program last year in 25 Karnataka government schools, five special schools, and two Intel Computer Clubhouses. For every 20 volunteer hours spent by an Intel employee, the institution gets $50 from the Intel Foundation.

"Intel is looking at AIF as one of their partners to do the community outreach," Sankaran said.

Suman Guha Mozumder